Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is There Any Path Forward for Anyone But Romney After Florida?

It's a dangerous game to call a race before it happens.  It's especially dangerous this year, where late surges in Iowa (Rick Santorum) and South Carolina (Newt Gingrich) have already led to results that would have been surprising just 72 hours earlier, but Mitt Romney sure looks poised to coast to a comfortable win in Florida, having beaten back Newt's surge coming off his South Carolina win with a couple of strong debate performances, matched by Newt's two weakest showings of the long series of debates held this cycle.

If Romney wins Florida, is there a path forward for anyone else?

Rick Santorum already intends to be in Nevada on election day in Florida, trying to build support in that caucus.  And a caucus environment certainly suits him better.  But I can't sketch a possible map to victory for Santorum, especially if he finishes a widely-expected distant third in Florida.

Newt would solider on, no doubt, but if he loses by 8 points in Florida, how is he going to fare in more moderate venues like Nevada and Michigan?  He has no catalysts, with no debates scheduled for three weeks (and Romney not likely to agree to new ones) and will continue to get outspent and out operated by a better-funded and better-organized Romney campaign.

Ron Paul will no doubt solider as deep as his money allows him, continuing to try to amass as many delegates as he can to influence the convention and get a prime speaking spot, but he doesn't even have a state that looks like a possible win for him.

So, Mr. Romneycare, Mr. Bain Capital, Mr. 15% Tax is looking like he is back comfortably in the driver's seat, with no serious opposition, if he wins.  I'm sure President Obama will be disappointed that this primary doesn't drag on, with the candidates throwing rocks at each other non-stop and leaving him above the fray.  And I'm sure Mitt Romney isn't his first, second or third choice in who he will face in the general election.

But it sure looks all over but the crying, unless Gingrich or Santorum completes a hail mary next Tuesday.

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